Aftermarket Exhaust Systems: Take Your Engine’s Power Potential to the Top

The purpose of your vehicle’s factory exhaust system is to muffle the sound that your ride produces as much as possible and serve as a gateway to exhaust gases that are a product of your engine’s combustion process. However, due to the fact that manufacturers are looking to cut costs left and right in order to give their vehicles more competitive pricing on the market, stock exhaust systems are restrictive and come with power-robbing backpressure created by the lack of space for the gases to pass through and the cheap manufacturing techniques used to manufacture exhaust parts. If you’re someone who’s looking to unlock their vehicle’s true power potential, you’re probably looking for an aftermarket exhaust system. So how exactly would an aftermarket exhaust system benefit your vehicle?


Well, for starters, aftermarket exhaust systems come with larger diameter pipes that are made using a special bending technique known as mandrel bending. Mandrel bending involves a mandrel being placed inside the pipe while it’s being bent in order to retain the diameter’s integrity. In other words, the pipe’s profile and diameter are virtually unchanged throughout its entire length. Further, aftermarket manifolds are manufactured so that they have an individual pipe connected to the engine’s cylinders, which means that they extract the gases more efficiently before sending them through the rest of the exhaust system. This improves gas flow and velocity, which means less back pressure and fewer restrictions.

Furthermore, aftermarket exhausts are made using aluminized and stainless steel, whereas factory exhausts are usually made of mild steel. Aluminised and stainless steel are much stronger, and they’ll probably outlast the lifespan of your vehicle itself. Additionally, these steels have better corrosion-resistant properties and can perform optimally in all climates. Aluminised steel is lightweight when compared to mild and stainless steel, so that alone can result in performance and mileage benefits. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is heavier, but also much more durable and can provide a clean, chrome-like look.


Depending on your set budget and what your intention with the aftermarket exhaust system is, you’ll come across three different types – cat-back, axle-back, and header-back. The difference between these types of exhausts is how much of the stock exhaust they replace.

  • Header-back exhaust kits are basically a full-replacement and they contain all exhaust parts and accessories including exhaust manifold bolts, gaskets, flange plates, clamps, etc. As a result, header-back exhaust systems provide the biggest performance and mileage benefits, and they also change how your exhaust system looks and sounds. However, due to the fact that these exhausts replace all the system components, including the manifolds, exhaust manifold bolts, pipes, catalytic converter, muffler, tip, etc. they’re more expensive and more difficult to install.
  • Cat-back exhaust kits replace all of the exhaust parts and accessories from the catalytic converter to the mufflers. These systems don’t include exhaust manifold bolts or any of the parts that header-back exhaust kits do, but they usually come with mufflers and tailpipes, an X-pipe, mid-pipe, Y-pope and H-pipe. They don These systems are also known as DPF-back systems on diesel applications are some of the most popular aftermarket solutions. Adding a cat-back exhaust system is a simple modification that provides high-value gains. However, just how much more power you’re getting out of this exhaust will depend on the other stock exhaust components and the design of the catalytic converter as well.
  • Axle-back exhaust systems replace the components from the rear axle to the exhaust tip. These systems may change how your vehicle sounds and looks, but not how it performs. However, they’re easy to install and are quite affordable.
    Furthermore, aftermarket exhausts come in two basic configurations – single and dual exhaust systems. Single exhaust systems are the most common configuration, and this design uses a single set of exhaust components, including an exhaust tip and muffler. These systems provide performance benefits over stock exhaust systems due to the larger diameter pipes and mandrel bents. Single exhaust systems are more affordable and weigh less than dual exhaust systems.

Dual exhaust systems, on the other hand, are the more popular aftermarket option. They feature two separate pipes running from the headers all the way back to the exhaust tips, as well as two catalytic converters and two mufflers that have their own exhaust tips. Most performance enthusiasts prefer this configuration due to its distinctive growl and its high-flow capabilities. However, the disadvantage is that there might be an imbalance of pressure between the two sets of components. This can result in one bank of engine cylinders to produce less horsepower than the other. Some dual exhaust systems incorporate a special crossover pipe to bypass this problem. These pipes allow for the exhaust gases to flow freely between the two sets of pipes, and balance exhaust flow to eliminate excess back pressure on either side. Another potential downside of dual exhaust systems is that they require a lot of modification to make them fit and work properly.